Dom Casmurro Chapter 93


As for the other person who banished these memories, it was my schoolmate Escobar, who came to Matacavalos that Sunday just before midday. In this way a friend replaced a corpse, a friend who for almost five minutes held my hand between his own as if he had not seen me for many a long month.

‘You’ll have dinner with me, Escobar?’

‘That’s exactly what I came for.’

My mother thanked him for the friendship he showed me, to which he replied very politely, though somewhat tongue-tied as if he couldn’t find the right words. You will have observed that he was not normally like that, but no man is always the same at every moment. In short, what he said was that he admired me for my sterling qualities and fine manners; at the seminary everyone liked me, nor could it be otherwise, he added. He emphasized my manners, the example I set, ‘the sweetest and rarest of mothers’ that heaven had given me … All this in a choked and trembling voice.

Everyone liked him, while I was as pleased as if Escobar were my own invention. José Dias regaled him with a couple of superlatives, Uncle Cosme with two drubbings at backgammon, and even Cousin Justina could find no fault in him. Later, however, on the second or third Sunday, she declared that my friend Escobar was a little too nosy and had eyes like a detective’s, which missed nothing.

‘They’re only his eyes,’ I explained.

‘I didn’t say they were anyone else’s.’

‘They are thoughtful eyes,’ observed Uncle Cosme.

‘That’s it,’ put in José Dias, ‘though Dona Justina may well be right. The truth is that one thing doesn’t rule out the other, and thoughtfulness goes very well with natural curiosity. There’s no doubt he’s curious, but …’

‘To me he seems a very serious-minded young man,’ said my mother.

‘Exactly,’ said José Dias, so as not to disagree with her.

When I told Escobar of my mother’s opinion (without mentioning the others, naturally) I saw that his delight knew no bounds. He thanked me, saying that she was too kind, and in turn praised my mother as a serious, distinguished lady and young, too, very young … How old could she be?

‘She’s turned forty,’ I replied, vanity making me deliberately vague.

‘Impossible!’ cried Escobar. ‘Forty! She doesn’t look thirty! So young and so pretty! Yet I suppose you had to take after someone, with those God-given eyes of yours. They are just like hers. Has she been a widow for long?’

I told him what I knew of her life with my father. Escobar listened attentively, questioning me and asking for clarification of doubtful points and matters I had omitted. When I told him I remembered nothing of our life in the country, being so young, he told me two or three memories he had from when he was three years old that were still fresh in his mind. Didn’t we plan to return to the country?

‘No, we shan’t go back now. Look – that black man passing by, he’s from there. Tomas!’

‘Young master.’

We were in the orchard where he was working. He came up to us and stood waiting.

‘He’s married,’ I said to Escobar. ‘Where’s Maria?’

‘She’s grinding corn, master.’

‘Do you still remember the farm, Tomas?’

‘Oh yes, master.’

‘That’s all. Off you go.’

I showed him another, then another, and yet another; this one Pedro, that one Jose, the other Damião …

‘All the letters of the alphabet,’ interrupted Escobar.

They were in fact all different letters, and only then did I realize this. I pointed out still more slaves, some of whom, having the same name, were distinguished by a nickname, either personal, such as João Fulo, Maria Gorda, or tribal, such as Pedro Benguela, Antônio Moçambique …

‘Do they all stay here in the house?’ he asked.

‘No, some work outside, and others are hired out. We couldn’t keep them all here. These aren’t all we had on the farm – most of them stayed on there.’

‘What surprises me is that Dona Glória adapted herself so quickly to life in a city house; the one there must be more spacious.’

‘I don’t know, but I think so. My mother has other houses bigger than this, but she says this is where she is going to die. The others are rented. Some are very big, like the one in the Rua da Quitanda …’

‘I know that one. It’s a lovely house.’

‘Then there’s one in Rio Comprido, in Cidade-Nova, one in Catete …’

‘You’ll never lack for a roof over your head,’ he said, with a warm smile.

We walked to the end of the grounds. We passed by the wash-house, and he paused a moment there to inspect the stone used for beating clothes and made some observations on hygiene before resuming our stroll. I don’t remember now what his observations were, only that they were ingenious and made me laugh, and he laughed, too. My own happiness awakened his; the sky was so blue, the air so clear, that nature seemed to laugh with us. Such are our happy hours in this world. Escobar explained this coincidence of the internal and external worlds in such exalted terms that I was deeply moved. Then, discussing the relationship of moral with physical beauty, he returned to my mother, calling her ‘twice an angel’.